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Get Support from the Grumpy Old Man

wick Nov12How would you “caricaturize” your organization?

We’ve all been to a fair or festival and watched caricature artists draw distorted people with giant cartoon-like heads and exaggerated features.
If you made a caricature of your organization, what would it look like?

Here are two extreme organizational caricatures:

Grumpy Old Man

  • Picture Andy Rooney’s bushy eyebrows, a cigar, a scowl and an iron fist.
  • This organization is set in its ways, not open to change, fixed in routine, dictatorial, risk averse, backward-thinking—what worked in the past will continue to work.
  • BAs in this environment might have strict procedures, many required templates, limited flexibility and a clearly-defined hierarchy.

Fearless Toddler

  • Picture a wide-eyed, smiling and wobbly 12-month old, touching and tasting everything without concern for consequences. Each day is a series of experiments with repeating cycles of attempts, failures, learning and trying again.
  • This organization values experimentation, rewards risk, and is forward-thinking—what’s next and what’s new.
  • BAs in this environment might be required to define their own roles and procedures, with few internal rules and minimal structure. Priorities might change frequently.

Which caricature describes your organization?

How does that impact your ability to get the support you need to try new tools and techniques?

The Fearless Toddler would welcome your experimentation, but how do you get support from the Grumpy Old Man?

Here are a few ways to help your Grumpy Old Man open up to new ideas:

  1. Cross-Team Training

    In many organizations, stakeholders don’t really understand the BA role. The right team workshop can help everyone appreciate possibilities and benefits of effective elicitation, analysis, issue resolution and prioritization processes

    This strategy exponentially increases the value of training because resistance is minimized and BAs have the support they need to help their organization move forward.

    Something magical happens when BAs, PMs, QAs and SMEs learn new skills together. At one of my client sites, BAs were happily overwhelmed when their business managers pushed them to try four new techniques just days after they all took BA training together.

  2. Take Baby Steps

    Start small. Figure out a way to apply new ideas in phases. Find a way to fit new techniques into current procedures. Start with techniques that are a simple expansion of current practices.

    If you have a new facilitation technique you want to try, practice it in a low risk meeting with a small group of friendly stakeholders. Ask for honest feedback.

  3. Ask permission

    Many people will tell you “it’s better to ask forgiveness later than ask permission now.” However, in some organizations it is not appropriate to try new techniques and tools without approval from a leadership team. In this case, you may need to follow a formal process to introduce new ideas.

    Even in less-structured organizations, a simple request process might maximize cooperation:

    1. Choose a new tool or technique.
    2. Submit a brief proposal to key members of your organization.
    3. Describe the benefits of the technique, your implementation plan and how you will report the results.
    4. Make sure you include any benefits that save time, reduce cost or minimize risk.
  4. Just do it! Take the risk and try something new.
    1. Prepare well, be confident and be willing to fail.
    2. Set expectations. Let people know that you plan to try something new.
    3. Use time wisely and give stakeholders a way to provide feedback.

    Whether you succeed or fail, you’ll learn something valuable about yourself and about your organization. Maybe you’ll learn that your organization is not as grumpy and old as you thought or you’ll learn the old process worked better. You might find support and flexibility or you might find a brick wall. Use your findings to inform future choices and experiments.

  5. Share expert opinions

    Sometimes you need a third party to help you advocate for change. You could hire a team of consultants. But if your budget is limited, find expert resources online. Find articles, videos, and other resources.
  6. Build your base

    Float new ideas, one person at a time, during lunch, after meetings, at happy hour, in the elevator and by the coffee pot. You will find support.

How do you get your stakeholders wide-eyed and smiling? How do you build support for new tools and techniques in your organization? Please leave your comments below.

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